Research highlight

Conservation: How governance affects waterbird diversity


December 21, 2017

Effective governance is critical for the successful conservation of global waterbird populations, suggests a Nature paper published online this week that has clear implications for conservation policy and practice.

Wetlands are amongst the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, but are also amongst the most threatened. Tatsuya Amano and colleagues examined changes in wetland waterbird species abundance for the period 1990-2013, as well as the drivers of these changes, using survey data from 461 species at over 25,000 survey sites around the globe. Governance was found to be the strongest predictor of abundance change. Waterbirds are declining in places where governance has been less effective, such as western and central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America. Protected areas tend to facilitate waterbird increases, but only in areas where governance is strong.

Although the global coverage of protected areas continues to increase, the authors warn that current conservation efforts could be undermined by ineffective governance. Levels of effective governance need to be considered when conservation decisions are being made, and there is a need to measure, monitor, improve and raise awareness about environmental governance globally.

doi: 10.1038/nature25139

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